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LCQ20: Promotion of integrity in the civil service

Followng is a question by the Hon Cheung Man-kwong and a written reply by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Mr Joseph W P Wong, in the Legislative Council today (December 20):

Question:

The Civil Service Bureau (CSB) conducted a survey in September last year among directorate officers to collect their views and perception of the ethical standards in the public and business sectors, and the survey report was completed in April this year. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council :

(a) of the public expenditure involved in the survey;

(b) whether the survey report will be made public or submitted to the relevant panels of this Council; if so, when this will be done; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) how it will follow up the concerns set out in the survey report?

Reply:

Madam President,

The Government is determined to uphold the highest standard of integrity in the civil service. The Civil Service Bureau (CSB) has been working closely with the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and Departments to promote a clean civil service. As part of our on-going efforts, CSB joined hands with ICAC to launch, in 1999, the two-year "Civil Service Integrity Programme". In addition, CSB conducted a "Survey of Business and Public Service Ethics" in September 1999. The survey was aimed at helping the Administration -

* to better understand the perceptions of senior government officers about the ethical standards prevailing in the public and business sectors; their attitude towards the problem of corruption; and

* to acquire information on what needs to be done further to enhance ethical standards in the public sector.

My reply to the three issues raised in the Hon Cheung Man- kwong's question is set out below:

(a) In terms of public expenditure, the survey has entailed an outlay of $130,000.

(b) The survey provides management information for CSB in planning its work in the promotion of integrity and prevention of corruption and malpractice in the civil service. The survey report was completed in April 2000. At the meeting of the LegCo Panel on Public Service (the Panel) held on June 19, 2000, CSB briefed Members on the conduct of the survey. In a paper presented to the Panel, we outlined the aims of the survey and how the data collected from the survey would be used, as follows:

* under the joint CSB and ICAC Integrity Programme, the central guidelines governing conflict of interest and conduct related matters are being reviewed, updated and consolidated. Where appropriate the survey findings will be taken into account in the review process;

* when visiting Departments to assist them in drawing up supplementary guidelines on conduct and discipline, and in organising tailor-made integrity training programmes for individual Departments, we would make reference to relevant survey findings; and

* CSB and ICAC are jointly preparing a management guidebook to provide handy reference for managers to strengthen ethical values among their staff and guard against corruption in their organisations. We would draw reference from the survey findings in preparing this handbook.

At the Panel meeting, we also highlighted that the survey report was for internal use and would not be disclosed to the public. Subsequently, in response to a media report, we issued on September 28, 2000 a press statement which included a summary of the survey findings pertaining to the respondents' views on the ethical standards in the public sector. A copy of the summary is at Annex. As regards the part concerning the respondents' views on the ethical standards in the business sector, it has been forwarded to ICAC for reference.

(c) We have utilised the data collected from the survey in our endeavours to promote civil service integrity, in ways including the following:

* since completion of the survey report, we have visited some 30 Departments under the Civil Service Integrity Programme. The survey findings have provided us with useful pointers in assisting Departments to draw up supplementary guidelines and in organising integrity training programmes for Departments;

* the survey indicates that a large majority of the respondents consider that "senior staff setting good examples" is important in promoting civil service integrity. CSB and ICAC have jointly published a handbook "Ethical Leadership in Action" in September this year, providing handy reference for senior officers to strengthen ethical values amongst their staff and guard against corruption. The handbook has been widely distributed to departmental managers. In the foreword of the handbook, the Chief Secretary for Administration has placed particular emphasis on the important role played by senior officers in the promotion of integrity in the civil service, encouraging them to lead by personal example;

* one of the corruption-prone areas highlighted in the survey report is procurement and tender control. The Administration has reviewed the relevant stores and procurement regulations and has issued new guidelines to further strengthen the monitoring system, e.g. reminding officers involved in tender preparation or evaluation to declare any conflict of interest; and * the survey also indicates that some of the respondents had encountered difficulties in maintaining a high ethical standard in their Bureaux/Departments. "Inadequate expertise in ethics management" has been quoted as one of the major difficulties. In this regard, CSB is providing assistance to departmental managers in a number of ways. For instance, we have plans to set up, in the next financial year, an electronic information and resource centre to facilitate access on the part of departmental managers to ethics development materials including rules and regulations on integrity management. CSB will in conjunction with ICAC organise added workshops and experience sharing sessions for departmental managers on common integrity issues.

CSB will continue to work closely with ICAC and Departments to promote and sustain a strong culture of integrity within the civil service. We shall monitor the effectiveness of our initiatives on a regular basis.

Annex

Survey of Business and Public Service Ethics

Executive Summary

Survey Objectives

1. The objectives of the survey are (a) to enhance understanding of the perception of the senior government officers on the ethical standards in the public and business sectors; (b) to gain a better understanding of the senior government officers' attitude towards the problem of corruption, and (c) to acquire information on what needs to be done to enhance ethical standards in the public sector.

Target Respondents and Response Rate

2. The target respondents were directorate officers of rank Dl to D8 within the civil service. A total of 569 questionnaires was sent out and 480 completed questionnaires were returned. The response rate was 84.4 per cent.

Summary of Key Findings

3. The following presents a summary of the key survey findings. A. Perception of Ethical Standard of Hong Kong

Present Ethical Standard

4. The proportion of respondents who considered the present ethical standard of public bodies and government departments as high was substantially larger than that who held the opposite view (64.2 pre cent vs 4.6 per cent for public bodies and 79.4 per cent vs 2.1 per cent for government departments).

Present Ethical Standard as Compared to Five Years Ago

5. A larger proportion of respondents considered the present ethical standard of public bodies and government departments was higher than that of five years ago (21.3 per cent vs 16.9 per cent for public bodies and 30.8 per cent vs 13.5 per cent for government departments).

Ethical Standard Two Years Later as Compared to Now

6. The proportion of respondents who considered the ethical standard of public bodies two years from now higher than present was similar to that who held the opposite view (17.1 per cent vs 14.6 per cent).

7. On the other hand, a larger proportion of respondents thought that the ethical standard of government departments two years from now would be higher than present (22.5 per cent vs 13.3 per cent).

B. Attitude towards Maintaining a High Ethical Standard within the Government

8. The large majority of the respondents considered that maintaining a high ethical standard within the Government would have the advantages of "enhancing public trust in the Department / Bureau / HKSAR Government" (86.0 per cent) and "minimising corruption, fraud and other malpractices" (72.7 per cent). Other advantages included "creating an ethical culture in the Bureau / Department" (34.0 per cent), "preventing conflict of interest" (31.7 per cent), "enhancing staff's sense of pride in the Bureau / Department" (28.3 per cent) and "enhancing service efficiency" (23.5 per cent).

9. 70.6 per cent had not encountered difficulties in maintaining a high ethical standard in their Bureaux / Departments. 29.4 per cent said the opposite, and the major difficulties they faced were "inadequate expertise in ethics management" (42.6 per cent), "difficulties in monitoring and supervision" (40.4 per cent), "limitation of resources" (36.2 per cent), "inadequate support from central government" (29.8 per cent), "lack of staff support" (27.7 per cent) and "difficulties in rallying support from management" (25.5 per cent).

C. Perception of Corruption Scene

10. The large majority considered corruption uncommon in public bodies and government departments (73.8 per cent and 85.4 per cent respectively) while less than one-fifth thought otherwise (16.9 per cent and 7.9 per cent respectively). A very small proportion even thought that corruption did not exist in public bodies (0.6 per cent) and government departments (1.9 per cent) at all. 11. For those who considered corruption common in public bodies, the majority thought that corruption was commonly found in "contractors supervision" (80.2 per cent), "procurement and supplies control" (70.4 per cent) and "tender control" (60.5 per cent). A considerable proportion mentioned "staff promotion / recruitment" (29.6 per cent), "licensing and application processing" (29.6 per cent), "staff supervision / posting" (27.2 per cent), "law enforcement" (24.7 per cent) and "funds administration / accounting" (19.8 per cent). 12. As for those who considered corruption common in government departments, most thought that corruption was commonly found in "contractors supervision" (73.7 per cent), followed by "law enforcement" (55.3 per cent), "licensing and application processing" (39.5 per ceny), "procurement and supplies control" (34.2 per cent), "tender control" (31.6 per cent), "staff supervision / posting" (31.6 per cent) and "staff promotion / recruitment" (23.7 per cent). 13. 10.4 per cent said that they themselves or their colleagues had come across corruption within the public service in the past 12 months while the large majority (87.3 per cent) said the opposite.

D. Views on Implementation of Promotion of Civil Service Integrity

14. The great majority said that their Bureaux / Departments had taken the following actions to promote civil service integrity ? "promulgating internal guidelines on conduct and discipline" (87.5 per cent), "senior staff setting good examples" (82.3 per cent) and "establishing or improving system control to prevent malpractices and corruption" (78.3 per cent). A comparatively smaller proportion mentioned "organising talks or training on anti-corruption / integrity" (56.3 per cent).

15. Over 90 per cent considered the following actions useful in promoting civil service integrity? "establishing or improving system control to prevent malpractices and corruption" (96.7 per cent), "senior staff setting good examples" (94.0 per cent) and "promulgating internal guidelines on conduct and discipline" (93.3 per cent). A relatively smaller proportion (83.2 per cent) considered "organising talks or training on anti- corruption/integrity" useful.

16. Of all respondents, 5.4 per cent had suggested some other useful actions in promoting civil service integrity, which were mainly "rewarding good performers and punishing offenders" (2.1 per cent) and "establishing trust and understanding among different levels of staff" (1.3 per cent).

17. 65.0 per cent thought that, compared with 1999/2000, their Bureaux/ Departments should allocate similar amount of resources in 2000/2001. 30.4 per cent considered that more resources should be allocated. 2.5 per cent considered less resources should be allocated (representing only 12 respondents), and the major reasons were "sufficient work had already been done" and "promotion was not an effective means".

18. Among all respondents, 67.3 per cent had given some comments or suggestions on promotion of ethics in civil service. Suggestions that are most talked about include "a good job has been done" (12.5 per cent), "senior officers should set good examples" (10.8 per cent), "to promote ethics through education and training" (9.8 per cent), "to maintain a clean civil service" (9.4 per cent), and "to improve integrity" (6.9 per cent).

End/Wednesday, December 20, 2000
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